SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili says his party is committed to immediately investing in health and safety for northern communities if elected.

Meili made the announcement while in La Ronge on Saturday.

“Life was getting harder for northern families before the pandemic and COVID-19 has made things even harder,” Meili said in a news release. 

“We’re committed to making the investments needed to make life better for all northern families. All Scott Moe has to offer northern communities is more of the same - which has been nothing at all.” 

Meili pointed out that his party’s platform includes a $5 million commitment to a Suicide Prevention Strategy that supports young people struggling with mental health and addictions. 

The release said it’s an issue that has become a crisis in the north, with suicide as the leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 49. It also said Indigenous girls in the province are 29 times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous girls.

Meili  marched with Tristen Durocher  and the Walking With Our Angels group during the final stretch of a 600-kilometre journey from La Ronge to the Legislative Building in July and was among those who  helped carry tipi poles  to set up the resulting camp that called for more action on suicide prevention in Saskatchewan.

Meili also noted some of the other aspects of the NDP election platform that support northern families including closing the gap in health, employment, justice and education between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, spending $10 million to act on the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and hiring doctors, nurses and continuing care assistants for under-resourced northern health centres.